Sympathy Etiquette For Sending Flowers and Plants When Someone You Know Dies

When someone you know dies, there is a good chance that you’ll want to let the family know how much that life meant to you. Families of the deceased are often in turmoil and funerals are tumultuous events for them. To show respect without impinging upon this private time, it is customary to send flowers and plants as a memorial. However, the etiquette for these sympathetic gifts is not always well understood. Here are some guidelines.

Sending Flowers When You Cannot Attend The Funeral Or Memorial Services

Often, people who wish to attend the services surrounding someone’s death are unable to do so. In that case, it is always appropriate to send flowers or plants either for the service itself or in the weeks following the loss.

Flower arrangements sent directly to the funeral home or the location of the memorial service provides a tangible reminder to the family of how much their loved one was known and appreciated by the world at large. It is never a wrong choice to do so. Typically, these arrangements come with a gift card in which your sentiments can be placed.

However, if you don’t hear about the funeral in time and still wish to honor the deceased individual’s memory, it is appropriate to send a living plant or floral spray directly to the family in the weeks after the funeral. These gifts help to support the surviving family members in their time of grief and let them know that their beloved family member is still remembered in the community. In short, if you cannot attend the funeral, send a floral gift to the services or to the family afterward.

Group Floral Arrangements

Have you ever been asked to contribute to a funeral arrangement? Many people have and the practice makes it possible to send a larger arrangement when cash is pooled. In addition, larger gift cards are available in which all contributors’ names can be listed. When families view these large lists, they find comfort knowing that many people were touched in life by their loved one.

Flowers Or Greenery: Which Is More Appropriate?

It’s always a good idea to talk to the funeral home prior to sending flowers or plants. Both are fine, but the funeral home may have some restrictions. For example, most require that the family remove all live plants after the funeral is over.

Take the family into consideration prior to making your selection. If they are plant lovers, consider sending a live plant. Otherwise, a floral arrangement would be the best choice.

Sending Flowers To The Funeral Home

In most cases, your decision about whether or not to send flowers directly to the funeral home will be based on how close you were to the deceased and their family. Close relatives, workplace friends, and other such associates general send flowers directly to the funeral home or memorial service. In fact, many funeral homes place the arrangments around the casket according to the degree of closeness. For example, arrangments from the spouse, parents, children, or siblings will be placed nearest the casket.

On the other hand, smaller plants or baskets of flowers are often sent to the home during the weeks following the funeral by people who with more distant links. In many cases, these people do attend the funeral and mail a sympathy card but wish to do something more to comfort families in their time of grief. A large floral spray at the funeral itself would not be the right choice for them while these smaller gifts speak volumes.

Flowers At A Cremation

Cremations are becoming more common and the etiquette is not always clear since a memorial may take place many weeks after the death. However, flower arrangments do remain appropriate. Most experts suggest sending an arrangement that goes well with the selected urn.

If you have questions about the etiquette of sending flowers or plants to a funeral, two good resources are the funeral home itself or the florist shop. When making your selection, think about the family and look for one that will speak to them. In some cases, the family may have filled the funeral director in on their wishes.

Heather Floral Company is a family owned and operated business committed to providing only the freshest and finest flowers. To see our one-of-a-kind arrangements which use some of the most exotic flowers available, visit today.

Responsibilities of an Executor

There may be a time in your life that you will need to act as the executer of the estate for a friend or relative. There are many obligations that an executor is legally responsible for. In some circumstances the executor is personally liable if they do not handle the estate properly. Being an executor is a serious role and can be challenging and difficult.

With the ever-increasing complex estate laws the executor could serve for several years before the administration of the estates in completed. Generally the duties of an executor include; asset collecting and managing, file and pay tax, pay off existing debt, and to distribute assets in strict accordance with how the deceased directed.

The major duties for someone acting as an executor include the following.

Probate: If the deceased left a Will the executor will probate it. The probate process will allow the Will to be admitted to the court, which give it legal effect. No fiduciary actions requested in the Will can take place until the court has decided that the Will was executed properly within state law. One the Will is admitted the executor can then carry out what is stipulated.

Create an Employer Identification Number (EIN): This number should be requested from the IRS and acts as the identification number for the estate. All tax returns and any other IRS paperwork should reference this number. A written notice should also be provided to the IRS that an executor is handling the estate, this will allow access to tax records and information.

Pay Debts: Claims made on the estate by creditors must be paid. Some claims may need to be litigated in order to prove their validity. Any other bills must also be paid such as payments for attorneys, appraisers, and accountants.

Estate Management: Legal titles of all probate assets are transferred to the executor for management. A public accounting of all estate assets is required by the probate court. The estate may have assets that need to be researched and found in order to be collected. The executor may have to run the business of the deceased, sell real estate or securities, or manage the investment portfolio of the deceased.

Tax Issues: All required estate and income taxes filings are the responsibility of the executor. If there are errors in the filing of taxes the executor can be personally liable for all tax payments.

Asset Distribution: Once all expenses, liabilities and debts have been paid the assets of the estate can by distributed by the executor. Many times, beneficiaries are able to receive part of their inheritance before the estate is closed. In any case the executor is responsible for the distribution.

Being the executor of an estate can be a very difficult job. Before accepting the role as and executor a person really needs to think if they have the time and skill to take on such a lofty responsibility. Often people will hire attorneys to act as the executor, or will hire an attorney to assist with completing the process properly.

Planning a Funeral

When planning a funeral for a loved one it is easy to feel rushed and vulnerable when it is time to start making decisions. It is suggested that the planning not be done alone but with the consultation of family members or friends. When planning a funeral the first step is to find out if the deceased outlined specific actions or events for their funeral. If there were specifics everything should be done to satisfy them. Unfortunately, most people do not pre-plan their own funeral, which leaves family members with the daunting job of attempting to plan a funeral that is appropriate.

As least two funeral homes should be contacted and price quotes requested. When getting quotes inquire as to whether the funeral homes are associated with one another. Large companies will often purchase smaller funeral homes and retain the original name. Often what appears to be an independent family-run home will instead be part of a large corporation. Simply asking who owns the funeral home can ensure that the different quotes you receive are not all from the same company.

If the deceased did not leave instruction for planning the funeral what type of arrangements to make will have to be determined. Do not allow the people offering the funeral services to put pressure on you to purchase unnecessary services or extras. The only funeral services that should be purchased are those that the deceased would want, or that you feel are appropriate. Often small items like gloves for pallbearers may seem like a small amount to pay, but many funeral homes charge up to $50 for each pair, with 6 pairs of gloves the total amount would be $300. Create a checklist for the all the things that need to be purchased or performed and stick with your list. When you decide the services you would like from the funeral home request package pricing. This is fairly common and many homes offer one price for the funeral services and burial or cremation.

A formal funeral traditionally includes a viewing period for up to 2 days, a service, and then burial. The burial can be in a mausoleum, vault, niche, or the ground. Often a graveside ceremony in also offered. The other items to consider purchasing are a flower car, family limo, and a hearse. The viewing or visitation part of the funeral is a choice either the deceased had already made or that those planning the funeral will have to make. Normally if the deceased had not expressed that they wanted a viewing one is not done. Some families may opt for a private viewing and then pictures of the deceased are displayed at the ceremony.

Planning a loved ones funeral is not an easy task. There are many considerations to take into account. This is especially difficult if the deceased was not clear with their wishes before they passed away. Whatever type of service that is ultimately performed should be one that the deceased would have wanted and that honors and celebrates their life.

“Green” Funerals

As the world becomes more environmentally conscience the desire to leave the earth a better place has extended to funerals. Green funeral are way to conduct a persons final arrangement and laying the body to rest in a way that has little impact on the environment. No non-biodegradable goods are used and neither are the harsh chemicals that the funeral industry often relies on.

Embalming is the process of preserving a body. Embalming is not necessary and is most often not required by law. The alternative for those seeking a green funeral is refrigeration or dry ice for body preservation. If embalming is required, those with green practices will choose environmentally friendly chemicals for the process.

It is common practice for a cemetery to require a body that is going to be buried, first be placed in a vault made of metal and concrete. It takes a large amount of energy to construct and transports the heavy vaults. A green cemetery will offer to bury the deceased in a shroud or biodegradable casket. While some even offer settings that retain the natural flora and fauna landscape features.

Cremation uses less resources when compared to whole body processing, but still uses fuel for burning and releases pollutant that can be harmful to the environment. It is well documented that mercury dental fillings cause a very harmful pollutant during the cremation process. In order to be more environmentally friendly some crematoriums have been upgraded and engineered to reduce the amount of pollutants that are released.

With new techniques and practices the funeral industry is as green as it ever has been. As people become better educated about the environment during their life, more people will want to continue helping the planet even after they are gone.

Bugged To Death

Oriental Rat FleaAlthough we might be giants in a bug’s world, their impact on us is not always small. In fact, an insect’s interactions with us can sometimes result in permanent consequences on not only a human’s health, but on their life as well. And once in a great millennium, the devastation is not felt by just one individual, but by entire populations.

The Black Death was one such instance where anywhere from one third of the entire population to, by some estimates, sixty percent of Europe was wiped out by a mere flea. As a result, this tiny insect changed the entire course of human history. No small feat by any standards. Perhaps some amount of acknowledgment should be given to creatures often dismissed as insignificant, due to their stature. As evidenced by The Plague and other decimation to species by insects, size does not always matter.

Let us take a closer look at the little pest that caused so much trouble in Europe, the Oriental rat flea.

It was thought by historians, that this flea piggy-backed a ride on rats who found their way onto merchant ships departing from Crimea, a port of call along The Silk Road. From there, nearly every port in the Mediterranean became infected with fleas carrying the bubonic plague. The disease quickly spread throughout Europe, nearly wiping out entire villages, debilitating cities and entire kingdoms. Death was almost guaranteed, as there was no effective treatment.

Unfortunately, Europe’s one major defense against rats was being systematically eradicated due to the religious hysteria and bias created by the Inquisition. Cats were believed to be the Devil’s tool, a witch’s familiar, especially if the cat was black. And anyone who owned a cat was under suspicion of being a witch. Guilt by association meant death was nearly as certain as The Plague itself. Therefore, cats were killed as fast as people could find them. As a result, the rat populations boomed and spread disease at a rate faster than cities could bury their dead.

Let’s say you were one of the unfortunate who contracted the plague. What treatments were available to you. Better yet, were your chances of survival greater if you refused treatment? Perhaps. Here are a few so-called cures:

The swellings associated with the Black Death should be cut open to allow the disease to leave the body. A mixture of tree resin, roots of white lilies and dried human excrement should be applied to the places where the body has been cut open.

The disease must be in the blood. The veins leading to the heart should be cut open. This will allow the disease to leave the body. An ointment made of clay and violets should be applied to the place where the cuts have been made.

Interestingly enough, it isn’t the bite of fleas that causes the spread of the bubonic plague. The real cause is flea vomit. By 1914, scientists had discovered that the Oriental rat flea also falls victim to the very disease it carries in it’s guts. Due to a build-up of the bacteria in the digestive tract, the poor flea cannot swallow anything more and must regurgitate the blood of its host as it feeds. This blood becomes infected and makes its way back into the bloodstream of the rat, or human, as was case in most of Europe.

You may think that because of more rational thinking in our modern day, better sanitary conditions and the advance of effective medicines, that the bubonic plague has been completely eradicated. But it simply is not the case. The Plague still exists and continues to cause death around the world, although the likes of the pandemic of the 1400’s have not been seen again and likely never will. It is interesting to consider that the fate of the world was once carried on the back of something as small as a flea.

Famous Last Words

Marie Antoinette's executionUpon the moment of their demise, most people make an effort to leave the world with a few profound words, something that sums up the meaning of their existence, or wisdom passed on from personal experience. Others, however may choose to ease the grief of loved-ones and perhaps their own fear of death by offering quips of levity.

Such was the case with Queen Marie Antoinette. While being led to the guillotine in 1793, she accidentally stepped on the foot of her executioner. Well-mannered to the end, she responded by saying, “Pardon me sir. I did not do it on purpose.”

Gallows humor has certainly remained alive and well, so to speak, in modern times. Take the case of the convicted murderer, James French, who was sentenced to death in the electric chair in 1966. As members of the press waited to witness his execution, he shouted to them, ” How’s this for a headline? French Fries.”

Humphrey Bogart, cool even as he faced death after a long battle with esophageal cancer, was quoted as saying, ” I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”

Voltaire, author, philosopher and historian, was said to have responded to a priest’s insistence that he renounce Satan, “Now, now, my good man. This is no time for making enemies.”

The famous French grammarian, Dominique Bouhours, quite accurately left us with, “I am about to — or I am going to die: either expression is correct.”

Infamous revolutionary Pancho Villa, seemed to have been concerned with creating good public relations, even after death. His last words were, “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.” It seems that his spin doctors did not comply.

Oscar Wilde certainly managed to keep his wit about him. As he lay dying penniless in a squalid room after the effects of hard labor while in prison, he said, “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”

Comedians like Grouch Marx, followed that maxim of leave ’em laughing, with quips like, “Die, my dear? Why that’s the last thing I’ll do.” And Del Close left us with, “Thank God. I’m tired of being the funniest person in the room.”

But not all last words were meant as a lasting sense of humor. Take for instance, the master of the macabre, Edgar Allen Poe. It just would not seem fitting for his departure to be light and cheery. In characteristic Poe fashion, he leaves the world stating, “Lord help my poor soul.”

Perhaps someone should have told General John Sedgwick about jinxes. A union commander during the Civil War, he commented on nearby confederate troops with, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” Moments later, a sharpshooter’s bullet found its mark in the commander’s head.

Renowned whiskey distiller Jack Daniels pleaded for, “One last drink, please”, on his deathbed. He had succumbed to blood poisoning from an injury in his big toe after he had kicked a safe in anger when he forgot the combination.

And not to be outdone by a moonshiner, the great film and stage actress Tallulah Bankhead called for “Codeine…” bourbon in her final hour before falling to double pneumonia.

Speaking of actors, the acclaimed John Barrymore had this to say as he lay dying in a hospital room after a long bout of ill health, “Die? I should say not dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him.”

Famous Death Masks

Creating a death maskMemory can fade over the course of time, erasing the details of even a loved-one’s face. As far back as 1323 BCE, people have endeavored to preserve, if not the memory, the essence of expression — the human face. Through the use of death masks in all of their forms, societies from all over the world have been able to retain one of the most precious mementos of their departed family members, royal elite, the famous and the infamous of popular culture.

Everything from the most exquisite and expensively crafted, to a simple wax or plaster casting has adorned the faces of the deceased, capturing their moment of death for anyone to witness. Eventually, this form of memento was replaced by photography, but even this new technology could not capture the likeness of a human face in all of its detail and depth.

Nearly every nuance, wrinkle, blemish and in the case of George Washington’s death mask, even hair can help to illuminate the image that can become blurred over time or distorted by an artist’s brush. Through the use of a death mask, we have the opportunity to know the faces of history, perhaps as intimately as their closest family and friends once did.

One of the most famous of ancient death masks, is that of Tutankhamun, aka King Tut. Although it was not an exact casting of the King’s face, it was intended to bear his likeness in a most elaborate fashion, which it succeeded in doing magnificently. Made for a king, this mask was sculpted of gold, colored glass and semiprecious stones. Two key points of interest about the mask are that it bears the emblems of a vulture and a cobra on the forehead – significant symbols of protection and divine authority.

Jumping in time to 1616, let us examine another important figure of history – William Shakespeare. Historians have debated the authenticity of his death mask, some claiming that it does not match the know portraits of The Bard, while others insist that the 3-D technology used to define the image is more accurate than any artist’s representation. It may be important to remember that an artist who offended their clients, soon lacked for them knocking at the door. But, you be the judge.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous face often is seen framed in galleries around the world. It is also on display in various versions of death mask castings ranging from bronze to simple plaster. Upon his death, castings of his image were in such high demand, that several versions were taken. It seems that even after years of exile, the emperor still commanded some amount of popularity.

One of the most famous of our Founding Fathers, if not the most inventive, was of course Benjamin Franklin. Interestingly, a copy of his death mask was scavenged out of an ash barrel by a homeless boy who sold it for around two dollars on Second Street in New York City to Lawrence Hutton, the editor of Harper’s Magazine from 1886-1898. This one purchase led to the discovery of more castings from around the world, culminating in one of the most extensive death mask collections ever put together.

Moving on to more notorious personalities, John Dillinger’s death mask sold at auction for $3,660 in 2010 to a Chicago businessman. Perhaps it is fitting that public enemy number one remains in the city of his death. Even the process of making his death mask was done in a somewhat nefarious manner. An amateur criminologist, Kenneth “Doc” Coffman, slipped past the guards of the morgue where Dillinger’s body was being kept. He then proceeded to cover the outlaw’s face with plaster without being caught. One would like to think that Dillinger would have approved.

Plants as Symbols of Death II

Oleander(Read Part I)

The relationship between plants and humans is often one of sustaining life for the latter, although with the rise of the “green movement” and being more environmentally conscious, the relationship is becoming more mutually beneficial. However, there are instances when the world of plants can become dark in our perceptions, even life-threatening.

Sometimes, plants can leave a great imprint on human awareness, filtering into society’s memories and the stories passed to future generations for centuries. Roses are instantly associated with feelings of love or friendship, while orchids can evoke the sensual. And then there are other plants that remind us that life isn’t always so pleasant.

Poison Hemlock

Think of Socrates and you may also think of his well-documented death by drinking a cup of poison hemlock. Recorded in great detail by his pupils Xenophon and Plato, they describe the brew’s effects, how Socrates encouraged it to work quickly through his body by walking until his legs grew numb, forcing him to his bed. There, the hemlock seeped into his heart, paralyzing its rhythm.

His death has been dramatized in plays and films, in the artwork of Jacques-Louis David, re-told in schools throughout the world over the course of history until the mention of poison hemlock has become a recognizable source of danger. Not only is this plant hazardous to humans, it has caused the death of much livestock since it prefers to grow in pastures as well as along roadsides and waste places.


Many gardeners are familiar with the attractive blooms of the oleander plant. However, its leaves are more notorious for their deadly effects, since children are more apt to put them in their mouths. However, ingesting any parts of this evergreen shrub can prove fatal. Urban legend has it, going all the way back to a published reference in 1844, that:

In 1809, when French troops were lying before Madrid, some of the soldiers went a marauding, every one bringing back such provisions as could be found. One soldier formed the unfortunate idea of cutting the branches of the Oleander for spits and skewers for the meat when roasting. This tree, it may be observed, is very common in Spain, where it attains considerable dimensions. The wood having been stripped of its bark, and brought in contact with the meat, was productive of most direful consequences, for twelve soldiers who ate of the roast, seven died and the other five were dangerously ill.

Deadly Nightshade

For such a lovely plant accompanied by a lyrical name like belladonna to have deadly consequences, is quite ironic to say the least. There are even stories that describe how Italian women once used the berries as a cosmetic, dropping the juice into their eyes to give them a brighter appearance. In fact, belladonna translates to “beautiful lady” in Italian. Even more ironically, modern doctors administer atropine, a poison in deadly nightshade, directly into their patient’s eyes in order to dilate them.


Sometimes, the smallest of things can have an enormous effect on large amount of people. Remember the Salem Witch Trials, in which twenty people were tried and executed? There has been evidence presented that points to the real cause of the bizarre behavior that was thought, by the citizens of Salem, to be rooted in witchcraft. The real culprit appears to be nothing more than ergot poisoning.

Ergot is a toxic fungus most commonly found in cereal grasses such as wheat and rye, usually in very damp conditions. The symptoms of ergot poisoning can be hallucinations, burning sensations, seizures, peeling skin, gangrenous blisters and death. Sometimes, an entire village was effected by the deadly fungus. It wasn’t until 1670 that ergot was discovered to be the cause of up to 50,000 deaths during the Middle Ages, when people would succumb to St Anthony’s Fire, dancing and contorting in the streets until collapse or death.

Real Lives of The Un-Dead Part Two

(see part one)

Puffer FishHumans, being both predator and prey, may have the fear of being devoured etched into their DNA, if not, from nightmares generated by a midnight snack grumbling its way through their digestive tract. The Brothers Grimm didn’t help matters by publishing tales of ghouls and other creatures lurking in shadows, underneath bridges that must be crossed. Why, for all we know, that skittering sound under the bed is surely something other than an errant mouse, something hungry, something waiting for you to fall asleep.


From their introduction in the B movies of the 1950’s to modern times, the image of flesh-eating zombies has become well-known, if not saturated, throughout popular culture. You can find a horde of re-animated corpses hungering for living flesh in theaters, television and video games. Zombies are big business, big enough to generate income and interest from fans who gather at zombie festivals all over the country, participating in full make-up to terrorize a neighborhood near you. Or, perhaps, only amuse the cat. Obviously, there aren’t any real zombies. Are there?

As with many stories and myths, there is a historical or cultural origin based on either spiritual or religious belief, as described in the Sumerian epic poem of Gilgamesh:

“Father, give me the Bull of Heaven
So he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living.”

But sometimes, a even seemingly ludicrous tale is based on some amount of fact.

Take, for instance, the case of Haitian Clairvius Narcisse, the first well-known documentation of a real zombie. Declared dead on May 2, 1962, then buried, he walked back to his village eighteen years later, causing an understandable amount of distress to everyone. News of this remarkable story eventually reached the ears of anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who spent a great length of time researching the possibility that there was a botanical explanation behind the zombie phenomenon. What he uncovered was astonishing.

Mr. Davis went to Haiti and obtained a sample of what is know as zombie powder. After much chemical analysis, it was determined that one of the key ingredients is a tetrodotoxin derived from the deadly puffer fish. When used in small very small amounts, this toxin can produce paralysis, slow the heart rate and respiration so greatly that the victim appears to be dead, while all along, they remain fully aware of their surroundings.

The victim is then buried, only to be dug up later by a witch doctor, or Bokor who will use them as a slave, often to work on plantations. But, perhaps another of the key ingredients of zombie making, is the belief that it is possible to steal someone’s soul and possess the empty shell of their body, enslaved for the rest of their lives.

Add the hallucinogenic effects of datura to that belief and image yourself resurrected from the grave, incoherent, terrified and in a highly suggestible state of mind and you may indeed believe yourself to be a zombie. For the rest of your life you will be given a daily dose of this mind-altering drug to ensure that you continue to believe that your soul has been removed, that your will is not your own. And if you are lucky, as in the case of Clairvius Narcisse, your kidnapper will find their own death, leaving you free to wander away towards home.

Plants As Symbols Of Death

LilyHuman beings have often sought meaning in times of intense grief or loss. In the search for reason and comfort in sorrow, people can attach certain attributes to objects, places and other living things as having some connection to the loss of a loved one. The world of plants is no exception.

For many people, there is something reassuring in a bloom, that it can offer the potential for renewal and provide a sweetness, both for the living in their grief, and as a final gesture of love and respect for the departed. Yet, as with many things, there can be a duality with the role plants can play in our lives as well as with our deaths.


Of all the plants that have come to symbolize death in the modern world, perhaps none other than the lily does it better. More often than not, lilies are offered as gestures of respect to the deceased and their families during funerals. But how did this flower come to be such an integral part of the funeral rite? Who saw it first as a representation of death and as a way of expressing grief and respect? And perhaps, more importantly, why?

The classical world of Greeks and Romans held the lily in a high esteem, seeing purity in the whiteness of its blooms. Even the goddess Venus was said to have envious of its beauty, no small feat for a simple flower. The lily was also popular in the ancient Jewish traditions, being associated also with purity, as well as chastity. As Christianity rose from the same region, its followers also adopted a similar view of the lily and came to think it symbolized the virgin Mary, then later associated it with saints and martyrs. This last adaptation could have led to the lily being laid on the graves of the innocent, which in turn, continued on to symbolize the restoration of innocence after death for anyone.

In other parts of the world, lilies are not so well-revered. The red spider lily, botanically known as lycoris radata, is associated with Hell, or Diyu in Japanese and by Huangquan in Chinese. This particular species of lily is thought to grow in the underworld and therefore, to lead the dead through the various levels of Hell towards re-incarnation.

A highly poisonous plant that could indeed lead towards the afterlife, as it were, the red spider lily is often cultivated near and around rice field in Japan as pest control against mice and rats. This flower can often be found in and around cemeteries, used long before embalming came into practice. The bulbs were planted on top of fresh graves, also as a deterrent against wild animals that would otherwise try to scavenge the dead.

Coincidentally, red spider lilies will come to bloom at the time of the autumnal equinox. As with many agricultural societies, the Japanese held great significance in seasonal changes. This could have given rise to the belief that the flower was welcoming the end of a natural cycle, signaling the time for death, and to withdraw down into the underworld and await renewal.

During this time, it is customary for Japanese families to visit the tombs of their ancestors, tend to any needed maintenance, and leave offerings. Many times, red spider lilies are left as a show of respect, most especially in Buddhist traditions that also include rituals that welcome the arrival of fall. One particular day of celebration, Higan, means “to reach the other shore”, which can refer to both physical death as well as removing what hinders us towards peace and enlightenment.

Read Part II